On the face of it, you may see Tim Lincecum as a 10-14 and 4.37 ERA pitcher. However, there’s more than what meets the eye with the Freak. In this, the first of many of ‘a closer look at’ I will investigate the decline of Tim Lincecum, and see if there is still hope for a big year from him.
First, in 2012 and 2013 Lincecum had a rather poor average of 68% runners left on base, a massive 10% drop from the Cy Young winner we used to know. I understand that he has had only one start this season, but regardless, after his season opener against the Diamondbacks, his left on base percentage sits at 76% just like it was when he won a Cy Young. His amazing home run/fly ball percentage which sat at around 7% during his prime, mushroomed to an unacceptable average of 13% during the last two seasons, and after his only start this season in Arizona, it looks set to rise, a rather worrying prospect.
Another worrying sign, his ground ball percentage. When at his best, Lincecum induced around 48% of ground balls, during his decline this lowered around 4%. After his start against Arizona, again, it sat around 44%, something which he will have to work on. On the contrast, when at his best he destroyed hitters with his split change, striking out around 26% of batters. So far in 2014, he has struck out 28% of batters, whilst walking none. Things may not be all doom and gloom for Lincecum.
Lincecums SIERA – a stat which attempts to ask the question, what is the underlying skill level of this pitcher? – was very impressive after his first start. During his Cy Young years, it sat at around 3.00, before rocketing to around 3.80 in the last two years. So far in 2014 it stands at 1.88, a very promising statistic for the Freak.
His velocity is a concern though. His fastball hit on average 89 miles per hour, which is a little lower than his average 90 miles per hour last year, but I think we all expected that. Likewise, his offspeed pitches all were around one or two miles per hour slower than last year.
The one vast change in Linecums game for this year seems to be his pitch selection. Normally, his fastball is his main pitch, throwing it around 38% of the time. On Thursday, Lincecum, throw his fastball only 27% of the time. The massive drop in fastball percentage is encouraging if you ask me given his diminishing velocity. He threw his slider much, much more and he is using a changeup a little more. It seems to be working too. The percentage of batters swinging at pitches outside the strike zone was around 3% higher, and batters swing percentage in general was 4% higher.
Overall, despite their being some scary stats for Lincecum, I think his new approach will serve him well. If he can consistently throw his offspeed stuff with high control, he could be a big success for the Giants in 2014.
Up next – Lincecum will once more face off against Bronson Arroyo and the Diamondbacks. This time, however, he will return to his pitching friendly home of AT&T Park.